Resolution Foundation asks the question: Does it pay to care?

A recent report published by the Resolution Foundation shows that while headline pay rates for care workers who visit clients at home are set at or above the national minimum wage, the reality is much different.

'Does it pay to care? Under-payment of the National Minimum Wage in the social care sector' reports that in practice social care sector workers are often at least £1 an hour below minimum wage. This is because they are not paid separately for the time spent travelling between appointments and because providing decent care often takes longer than the time allocated by the employer for each visit.

Over a year, this could mean a care worker who spends an average of 35 hours a week at work for 48 weeks loses out on more than £1600.

The report looks in depth at the 'work diaries' and payslips of care workers doing home visits and shows that their real pay levels do not reflect the hours they work. With an estimated 2 million care workers in the UK, there are a significant number of people being underpaid and with the onus on workers to raise a complaint - something many are unwilling to do - the report calls for stronger penalties for firms breaching the law on the minimum wage to help protect workers.

The report goes on to look at the issue of providing care for an ageing population. With dwindling resources many local authorities have lowered the price they will pay care firms to take on the work, with the result that firms increasingly compete to lower their costs to win business. This again has a knock on effect for care workers and the wages they receive.

The report also makes a series of recommendations to tighten enforcement, protect workers and reform the process of commissioning care. They include:

  • Abolition of 15-minute care slots and an end to work schedules which over-cram appointments
  • Increasing the penalties facing companies which break the law
  • Clearer payslips, including average hourly rates, so care workers can see exactly how they have been paid
  • Ensuring care firms include a reasonable payment for staff travel time when bidding for contracts
  • A greater role for local authorities in monitoring legal compliance, more resources for HMRC's compliance unit and a focus of resources on care work, as a high risk sector

The report, which was supported with a grant from Unbound Philanthropy, says the recommendations should form part of a wider shift in the culture of care in which cost is increasingly linked to good quality care rather than the time taken and the number of visits carried out.

To read the full report you can download it from here.

Last Updated : 05 September 2013. Page Author: Laura Bimpson.